Christ Church Spitalfields
The Ten Bells
Don't know Jack? - London, England
Dorset Street has now gone, part of it turned into an unlovely car park. But in twilight and night, when the shadows grow longer, it may be wise not to come too close. The old darkness may engulf you. You may hear the cry of “murder”, and the hands of the dead may reach out to claim you. This is a book for all lovers of London to read.
From Peter Ackroyd’s foreword to The Worst Street in London
One of the most intriguing things about London is the tribes that live so closely together. Peeping through the buildings of Spitalfields you are footsteps away from banking ogre RBS; the blocks of Tower Hamlets; the tourists that are on the trail of the achingly trendy market or the story of Jack the Ripper and the studios of craftsmen and artists.
This century is not the first time that Spitalfields has been at the forefront of fashion: Fashion Street has had its name for at least two hundred years and (Ho)spitalfields’ reputation for the finest silks and architecture was cemented by the arrival of the French Protestant Huguenots in the late 17th century. Fiona Rule's The Worst Street in London charts the area's history through the rise, fall and eventual flattening of, its most notorious thoroughfare, Dorset Street. By concentrating on the inhabitants, trade and lodging houses in the street that would be, by 1898, declared "the centre of evil" Rule describes how the decline of the silk trade and overcrowding led to the squalid conditions, rampant crime and prostitution that would make the street a hunting ground for the Ripper and, later, for organised gangs. For the gore hungry visitor, with their noses pressed against the original tiling and ancient newspaper reports displayed at newly renovated "Jack's" pub The Ten Bells, a much better way to understand the dark heart of London's past is to plunge into The Worst Street in London.
The book ends with a suggested walking tour taking you through a labyrinth of passage ways and streets pointing to former gin palaces haunted by music hall stars, the windows where silk looms once stood and houses of dog fighters, police fixers and boxers. Afterwards, retreat from the lamp lit dusk into one of the areas fantabulous restaurants (see further information) or snuggle down with a large red and your feet on a velvet footstool in the cinema at the Aubin and Wills concept store.
- Visit localbookshops.co.uk to buy The Worst Street in London by Fiona Rule from your nearest independent bookshop.
- From veal meatball pizza in chilled out Pizza East to spiced pork cheek with cous cous in the polished French elegance of Galvin Café A Vin, Shoreditch is sizzling with culinary treats. I salivated (and even came over a little faint at the mention of pork and clams) at Helena Lee’s review of her meal at Eyre Brothers on blog The Culinary Tales. Or grab bagfuls of warm, fresh bagels at the Brick Lane Beigel Bakery (159 Brick Lane).
- The Ten Bells (84 Commercial Street)